My favourite album cover from a couple of years ago was for Shigeto’s No Better Time Than Now (2013): an abstract swath of neon colour descending to deep black via a middle third that appears liquid, almost swimming in front of your eyes. It’s the work of Michael Cina, an abstract artist (as well as a director, and typographer amongst other things) based in Minneapolis.
I started to seek out more of Cina’s work: other covers for artists on Ghostly International (eg. for Matthew Dear’s Beams (2012)); the series of desktop wallpapers he put together for the label; and his broader design work via his company Cina Associates. Cina’s became one of those names that once you’re looking out for it seems to pop up all over the place, mentioned by other artists whose work you admire, or dropped into an article associated with some cool project on the horizon.
An in depth interview at The Great Discontent last year revealed a lot about the breadth of Cina’s work—particularly with regard to typography—and also allowed a glimpse into his practice and his admirable work ethic, and sometime after reading that I joined up to the artist’s mailing list. And it was via the mailing list that I learned a little more about Cina’s process when it comes to making abstract work. When starting on something new he first makes a series of studies, testing colours, sketching ideas - as Cina puts it:
Studies are smaller pieces that I create when I work. They are an integral part of my process. Sometimes they are just a sketch, sometimes an idea for a larger painting. Many of these have been sourced for larger works.
On a semi-regular basis Cina puts together a set of these studies and offers them for sale at a nominal price. I’d been watching the listings for a couple of months before I found a piece that grabbed me, but now I’m proud to say I own a unique piece of Michael Cina’s work: ‘SC 107’
Of the wide variety of works employing different styles & techniques, ‘SC 107’ stood out to me for the simple reason that—whether I was correct or not—I immediately perceived that Cina had been sketching towards a human face. What caught my attention first was the eye just left of the image’s centre, and then another, smaller and too far offset from the other but there. A thin, rectangular nose doesn’t entirely match the position of either eye, and is too close to the beginnings of a lower lip. The pen marks themselves may not have been enough, but something about the colouration: a reddish shoulder and then a band of yellow moving up through the right side of the face keyed my eye into the image - made it solid for me.
It arrived this week and I couldn’t be happier with it. The next step is to find a frame that suits; in person the piece has subtle patches of translucency, and I’d like to find something that keeps that visible.